Roy C. Marks of Toledo, Ohio founded the California Motor Company in San Francisco. The first moto bicycle they produced was in 1896 – it was the very first moto bicycle produced in the United States. The machine took its inspiration directly from the engine and mechanics of the French-made DeDion Bouton. The California was one of the first motorcycles to be imported into Japan. Along with the Hildebrand & Wolfmüller, Thomas Auto-Bi, and Mitchell, it was influential in establishing the Japanese Motor Industry. In 1902, the company received two engine patents, and that same year a rider named George Wyman left San Francisco aboard a “California Moto Bicycle” for New York City. It took him 50 days, he pedaled the last 150 miles, and arrived with his hands in bandages, but the completion of this trip earned the California Motor Company considerable fame. Subsequently, Consolidated Manufacturing of Toledo, Ohio purchased the company, and disassembled its factory, moving all assets to Ohio. It was there that they began manufacturing Yale motorcycles, which mimicked the design of the previous models made in California.
The 1906 model is considered by some to be the first real Yale made. Through modifications in engine and design, this vehicle was lower and lighter than the models that preceded it, and California was dropped from the previous label of Yale-California, and the now-familiar logo was placed on the bike.
The first actual Yale motorcycle, a 3 1/2 hp, single cylinder model was announced in 1909. In 1910, a twin was added to the Yale lineup. Most notable in this year was a design flaw which resulted in a large number of broken frames. A 1910 1/2 came out rather rapidly, to remedy the situation. The late 1910 model has a horizontal top frame tube that distinguishes it from earlier 1910 models. In addition to the outside flywheel, the unusual engine's final drive is via chain over a rear wheel pulley. The Yale became of the more successful of the early independent motorcycle manufacturers, the main factor being that the company was better capitalized than most other bike builders of the day. Yale motorcycles were branded as the “gentleman’s machine”, available in a classy grey hue, and polished nickel. Fuel was carried in the distinctive cylinder slung under the top frame member, while the large canister set astride the handlebar contained acetylene for powering the headlamp designed to light the way on a dark night’s ride. Starting was via pedaling with the rear wheel up on its centerstand, while belt-drive propelled the bike. The “4P”emblazoned on the gas tank along with the Yale logo stood for the rated horsepower, sufficient for a well-mannered 45 mph.
The Consolidated Manufacturing Company continued until December of 1915 when they announced that they had stopped manufacturing motorcycles and also their Yale and Snell bicycles. With the escalating war in Europe, there was a large demand for materials to support the conflict, and a large portion of the company’s production was turned over to the manufacture of shrapnel.